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Comb and Hairpin with Azaleas Blossoms and Birds, n.d.
Lacquer on Wood
3 13/16 x 8 13/16 in. (9.65 x 22.35 cm)

Object Type: Hair Ornamentation
Technique: Carving
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, in honor of Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh
Accession Number: 2013.7.107a,b

These Japanese hair ornaments were collected by the late Angelyn Kelley Riffenburgh over decades. Angelyn’s husband, Dr. Ralph Riffenburgh, presented the combs in her honor to the Scripps College collections in 2012. Most of these hair ornaments, or kanzashi, are made of bamboo or lightweight woods that have been lacquered; they date from the 18th century well into the 20th, when elaborate hairstyles included decorative combs (kushi) and hairpins (kogai). Matched sets of ornaments featured seasonal images, landscape scenes, as well as historical or fictional references. The combination of pine, bamboo (nanten), and plum blossom (shochikubai) designs were popular at New Year’s time. Cherry blossom patterns were worn in the spring, and chrysanthemums in the autumn. Some kanzashi were made with tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, bone, or precious metals. Hairpins with a ball ornament, or tama, were also color coordinated to the seasons, with the cool colors green and blue worn during the summer months and the warm colors red, orange, and gold used during the winter. --Bruce Coats, Professor of Art History and the Humanities


The comb and hairpin are made of extremely lightweight lacquered wood, possibly, according to Dr. Juli Wolfgram, stained balsa wood.

Object Description
The comb features a design of long-tailed, possibly fantastic birds with azalea flowers. The artist's mark reads "kosai." The hairpin, or kogai, features the same bird and azalea design as the comb. The artist's mark on the black stem reads "kosai." Dr. Juli Wolfgram's first impression was that the stem of the kogai was older than the wooden ends, and that whoever commissioned the work had wanted to use the stem because it bore the artist's signature. Upon closer inspection, however, she called it an "unlikely" possibility, because the kogai matched the comb. The hairpin is 15.5 inches long.

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